We have the right to ask, says Putin, against whom is the NATO expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances made after the dissolution of the Soviet Union?
AMIDST A SLEW of unverified allegations in recent weeks of Russian invasions, violations of Ukraine sovereignty and NATO’s current claim of Russian troops and Russian tanks fighting on the side of the federalist rebels, the upcoming annual NATO Heads of State Summit in Wales, threatens a widening violence and heightened military activity throughout eastern Europe.
Add to the equation that the tide of war appears to be turning against the US-imposed Kiev government as a successful offensive by the rebels captured the coastal town of Novoazovsk near Crimea opening a new front in the southeast and holding the line in Elenovka as rebel forces maintain their ground in Donetsk, the Kiev government needs to save face by claiming that Russian troops are aiding the out-manned, under-supplied rebels. Russia’s envoy to the EU Vladimir Chizhov added that the only Russian troops in Ukraine were the nine paratroopers who wandered across the border recently while on patrol.
It is worth noting that the largest gathering of international leaders to ever assemble in the UK, will include non NATO member Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko as part of a ‘special NATO meeting’ on Ukraine but will exclude Russian President Vladimir Putin.
While that omission may be a sure sign that negotiating a political settlement regarding the US-sponsored fiasco in Ukraine is not a NATO or US priority, the subject of Ukraine will be front and center on the agenda as the EU/NATO/US alliance already know their plans with regard to NATO expansion and the future of Ukraine.
President Obama will attend the Summit after visiting the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania while ‘reaffirming’ the US commitment to the region. It did not used to be common for the US President to visit every little nickel and dime country (no offense intended) along the way but in this case such assurance along with a Presidential visit can mean only one thing: that those self-proclaimed ‘threatened’ strategically-located countries (with Estonia and Latvia on Russia’s border and Lithuania and Poland bordered by Russian-ally Belarus) need the President to personally shore them up for a new NATO missile defense system going further east than the former Iron Curtain, and in advance of any possible turbulence spillover within their borders.
On the eve of the Summit, outgoing Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen offered the following:
“We are at a crucial point in history, our peace and security are once again being tested. NATO support for the sovereignty and total integrity of Ukraine is unwavering. Our partnership is long-standing. NATO is working even more closely with Ukraine to reform its armed forces and defense institutions. NATO stands ready to support Ukraine with advisors and assistance. We are advising Ukraine on defense planning and defense reform and are ready to intensify this cooperation. As a sign of strong support and solidarity, we have decided to hold a ‘special meeting’ with Ukraine at the upcoming NATO Summit in Wales. We will continue to improve the ability of NATO and Ukraine soldiers to work together. It is the right of every country to choose its own foreign policy without foreign interference. NATO fully respects that right but today Ukraine’s freedom and future are under attack.”
In addition, in a series of recent interviews with European newspapers, when asked whether there would be permanent international deployments under a NATO flag in east Europe, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said: “The brief answer is yes ….’for as long as necessary.’ In addition, Rasmussen promised a readiness action plan to provide rapid reinforcements with ‘a more visible NATO presence in the east.”
In accordance with the promise made in Bucharest in 2008 that both Georgia and Ukraine would become members, it is doubtful whether the Summit will formally act given NATO’s inability to accept new members with borders in dispute but would rather allow each to function as proxy states. As every NATO member fully understands, membership approval of any of the encirclement countries can be expected to trigger Russia’s long time vehement opposition to a missile presence on its borders.
None of this is reassuring especially that the recent accusations have yet established whether NATO’s images are date and time stamped, accurate and reliable. Nevertheless, just as the unfounded accusations regarding MH 17 flight continue to fuel enmity toward Putin, the latest ‘invasion’ charge will be provocative enough, as US-dominated NATO members congregate, to escalate a war effort that has already claimed over 2,600 fatalities, according to the UN. It was, of course, the ouster of the democratically elected President Yanukovych and the imposition of a pro-EU, pro-NATO and a pro-IMF government in Kiev that sparked the revolt in east Ukraine.
One immediate flaw in NATO’s latest assertion is that, given its total dependence on creating military conflict, reliance on their version of anything should be subject to intense scrutiny. With an estimated 50,000 plus Ukrainian troops in action (not counting CIA and US mercenaries), the question is whether sending 1,000 Russian troops into Ukraine is worth the risk to Putin who has consistently followed a diplomatic path while US diplomacy has been dominated by threats and bullying.
What makes more sense is that if the situation in Ukraine reached the critical point of no-return, that Putin would send in a sufficient force the size of a field army accompanied by an impressive number of tank battalions, support convoys and enough heavy artillery to finish the job – and presumably there would be no doubt about whether or not the Russians had moved into Ukraine to protect the civilian population from continued merciless attacks. The other option is that the Russian air force could easily put an end to Ukraine’s shelling and bombing of defenseless citizens.
Perhaps the best response to the latest ‘invasion’ disinformation has come from Alexandre Zakharchenko, Chair of the Council of Ministers of the Donetsk National Republic, given in a recent press briefing.
When an English speaking reporter inquired whether Russian military units were fighting with the rebels, Zakharchenko replied that if ‘you think that Russia is sending its regular units here, then let me tell you something. If Russia was sending its regular troops here, ‘we would not be talking about the battle of Elenovka; we’d be talking about the battle of Kiev.”
Zakharchenko, an attorney who made an impressive presentation, went on to remind the media that “A territory has the right of self-determination and separation after a referendum,” a referendum that was approved by Donbass voters in May.
What is not debatable is that for some weeks, a conservative estimate of 4,000 Russian volunteers (including some ‘off duty’ military and women) have crossed into Ukraine to fight on the side of the ‘rebels.’ That number may have also been augmented by volunteers sent by Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov whose “statements in support of the illegal annexation of Crimea and support of the armed insurgency in Ukraine,” were cited as reasons for his inclusion in a recent round of sanctions.
Obama’s Unprovoked Attack on Russia
In reaction to NATO’s invasion charge, President Obama, whose State Department was intimately involved in the February coup, spoke at the White House voicing the usual provocations:
“Russia is responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine. The violence is encouraged by Russia. The separatists are trained by Russia. They are armed by Russia. They are funded by Russia. Russia has deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
“In Estonia, I will reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the defense of our NATO allies” and “At the NATO Summit in the United Kingdom, we’ll focus on the additional steps we can take to ensure the Alliance remains prepared for any challenge” and “There is no doubt that this is not a homegrown, indigenous uprising in eastern Ukraine.”
In a stunning denial of self-reflection, the president has consistently failed to mention his own Administration’s role as sole cause of the violence, the $1 billion of Congressional support for Kiev, the $5 billion of US aid revealed by Secretary of State Victoria Nuland last spring or the NATO build up in Poland, the Baltic states and elsewhere in eastern Europe.
There is never serious mention of the humanitarian catastrophe on a civilian population, no mention of the fatalities, no mention of a ceasefire, no mention of the withdrawal of all non-Ukraine factions from meddling and no mention of requiring the Kiev government’s direct negotiations with the federalist rebels to determine the future of their own country.
Putin Redefines Russia’s National Interests
After the Gorbachev – Yeltsin years overseeing the dissolution of the USSR in which much of its national interests were imprudently relinquished to a market economy, Putin addressed the Munich Conference on Security Policy in 2007.
During that speech, he redefined contemporary Russia’s national interests and its geopolitical concerns as he established himself as an independent, critical thinker with an international perspective – and, therefore, a threat to US dominion. The speech is worth reading in its entirety and here are several excerpts:
Decrying a “greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. One state, first and foremost, the United States has overstepped its national borders in every way.”
In referring to “Russia’s peaceful transition to democracy. Why should we start bombing and shooting now at every available opportunity?”
In referring to an earlier speaker, “I understood that the use of force can only be legitimate when the decision is taken by NATO, the EU, or the UN. If he really does think so, then we have different points of view. The use of force can only be considered legitimate if the decision is sanctioned by the UN. And we do not need to substitute NATO or the EU for the UN.”
With regard to expanding NATO with missiles on Russia’s borders: “It turns out that NATO has put its frontline forces on our borders I think it is obvious that NATO expansion does not have any relation with the modernisation of the Alliance itself or with ensuring security in Europe. It represents a serious provocation that reduces the level of mutual trust. And we have the right to ask: against whom is this expansion intended? And what happened to the assurances our western partners made after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact?”
And lastly, Putin quoted the “speech of NATO General Secretary Manfred Woerner in Brussels on 17 May 1990. He said at the time that: “the fact that we are ready not to place a NATO army outside of German territory gives the Soviet Union a firm security guarantee“.
Russian author and campaigner Boris Kagarlitsky speaking on the eve of anti-Nato protests in Wales, August/September 2014. Video: Ady Cousins